Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Papal Visit - Day I

I will try to post some of my comments and reflections on the Papal visit over the next few days, though it may mean that they are a little delayed in reaching the blog.

Following Mass at the Oratory here in Oxford I watched the Pope's arrival and welcome at Holyroodhouse, and his journey through Edinburgh on the big television screen in the Oratory social centre, along with other parishioners and a group of recently arrived American pilgrims.

From their speeches both the Queen and the Pope seemed to be making much the same point about the place of faith in society - no surprise there, but still heartening. Metaphorically they were singing from the same hymn sheet.

(Photograph from Papal visit)

The way the Scottish dimension was stressed was very impressive, as were the numbers along Prince's Street right out to the Cardinal's residence. Cardinal O'Brien has clearly done a very good job in creating an identity for Scottish Catholicism that unites being Scottish and being Catholic. Has there been anything like this since 1560? One rather expected to hear the sound of John Knox quietly, or not so quietly, spinning, in his grave in the background. Mind you he does, it is said. have King Charles II's statue on top of his grave in Parliament Square in Edinburgh.

The emphasis on St Ninian was interesting - the first missionary to what became Scotland, and one with, it is said, links to the papacy in Rome as well as to St Martin in Gaul.

It was back to the Oratory to watch the Papal Mass at Bellahouston - again very impressive numbers - I hope Birmingham is as well attended. There was a poor commentary by a priest on Sky TV - Catholicism is all about community it would appear. There were several intakes of breath amongst the audience at that - not just mine.

All in all a very good start to the Papal visit - positive, well supported, resonating with people in the streets and at the Mass, and in no way oblivious of the Catholic Christian roots of these realms.

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